Becoming a priest or a man or woman religious is not primarily our own decision…. Rather it is the response to a call and to a call of love.
WHAT IS A VOCATION?
The word “vocation” comes from the Latin “vocare,” meaning “to call”. We are all called by God to make a gift of ourselves for God’s glory and the salvation of souls. Our vocation is that path to holiness. Some are called to the vocation of marriage, some in consecrated life, and others to the priesthood and/or religious life.
Resources for Women, Parents, Parishes
WHAT IS DISCERNMENT?
Discernment is prayerfully seeking God’s will in your life. It takes time, patience and a willing heart, humility and trust that God does indeed wants what is best for you.
HOW WILL I KNOW?
Most of us who have ever wondered if the vocation to priesthood or religious life was for us must have asked the question, “how will I know?” It comes in many forms. “What is God’s will in my life?” “How do I find happiness and fulfillment in my life?” “What is the ultimate purpose of my existence?” “How will I know that God is calling me to live the religious life as a priest, brother, or sister?”You must pray every day, asking God to reveal His plan for you. Do not ask yourself, ” What do I want to do with my life?” This is the wrong question! Rather, you should be thinking and asking: “Jesus what do you want me to be? How do you want me to love You?” And listen for the answer! Listen with your heart, not just your head.
– Attend daily Mass as often as you can
– Read and mediate on Scripture
– Pray the Rosary, asking Mary to guide you
– Go to Confession frequently and consistently
– Daily prayer & silence: Often, surface noises – the distractions around us and within us – drown out God’s voice. Make a commitment to set aside quiet time each day for prayer to help move away from the distractions.
– Eucharistic Adoration
SPIRITUAL DIRECTION & SUPPORT
– Talk to a priest or consecrated religious about your questions and concerns
– Seek a holy Spiritual Director (ask people you trust, like your parish priest, for recommendations)
– Build holy friendships
– Read the lives of the Saints
EXPLORE THE POSSIBILITIES
– Speak to Vocation Directors
– Attend discernment retreats
– Read books on discernment
– Online resources
– Serve the poor
Above all, place yourself in the hands of God and ask for His help to lead you on this journey. Do not be afraid . . . nobody discerns a vocation in the Church alone! Talk to a priest, seek the assistance of a good spiritual director, and as you move forward on your journey, vocation directors will also be able to assist you in uncovering God’s will for you.
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Resources for Discerning Women
What should I do if I think I might be called to the priesthood?
Help bring that call into focus by praying about it, and listening for God’s response. As you think about whether or not you should be a priest, questions you might ask yourself include:
– Am I willing to serve God with a generous heart?
– Am I trying to deepen my relationship with God through prayer?
– Is my life as fulfilling as it could be?
– When I hear the Word of God, do I want to share it with others?
– Can I live my life without worldly things like fame, pleasure, and wealth?
– Is the desire to be a priest something that I keep hearing in my heart over and over again?
– Do I have a deep love and reverence for the Holy Eucharist?
– Have others encouraged me to consider the priesthood?
– Are there priests whom I greatly admire?
– Do I know holy priests I can talk to about becoming a priest?
It is important to become involved in your parish, attend Mass frequently, receive the Sacraments, read the Bible and other spiritual resources regularly, learn about Church history and the teachings of the faith, and try to live a good, moral Christian life.
It is helpful to talk with a priest about the questions and concerns you have about discerning the priesthood. When you do, ask specifically about his experiences and what made him want to become a priest. It can also be very helpful to talk to your parents, youth minister, teacher, school counselor, a friend or a family member.
Also, it’s a good idea to find someone who can be your spiritual director, and for the two of you to meet on a regular basis. The purpose of a spiritual director is to help you better understand where God is leading you in your life.
After speaking with a priest or a spiritual director, you may want to arrange a personal meeting with the Vocations Director to learn more about the priesthood and what is involved in becoming a priest. You may also be invited to attend discussion groups, retreats, and other activities sponsored by the Vocations Office.
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FAQs ON THE PRIESTHOOD
How does one prepare for ordination to the priesthood?
A man has to engage in a challenging program of priestly formation which lasts from five to thirteen years, depending upon his background and the seminary he attends. There are three levels of seminary: high school, college or pre-theology and theology. According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), in 2000-2001, 787 students attended high school seminaries, 1,647 attended college seminaries, and 3,483 were enrolled in theology schools.
Seminaries address four types of formation: human, spiritual, academic (intellectual), and pastoral. In addition to the academic course work, seminarians participate in a full schedule of spiritual activities, e.g., daily Mass, Liturgy of the Hours (Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer), and spiritual direction and retreats. At each level of seminary training, the seminarian prepares for future pastoral ministry in various settings, such as schools, religious education programs, hospitals and parishes. All of the formation takes into consideration the human person; human growth and development is fostered by community living, workshops and other programs. The formation of future priests include practical learning, too, for example, preaching, saying Mass, and pastoral counseling.
What is ordination?
Ordination is the sacramental ceremony in which a man becomes a deacon, priest, or bishop and enabled to minister in Christ’s name and that of the Church. There are three ordinations in the Sacrament of Holy Orders: diaconate, priesthood and episcopal. The ordination ceremony includes various rituals, rich in meaning and history, e.g., the prostration, laying on of hands, anointing of hands, giving of the chalice and paten and sign of peace.
When does the ordination actually take place?
The essential rite of the sacrament, i.e., when it takes place, is the laying on of hands and prayer of consecration. This is an ancient tradition in the Church, mentioned in the Bible.
Who can ordain a priest?
Only a bishop can ordain a priest because he shares in the ministry of Jesus passed down through the apostles.
What is the meaning of laying on of hands?
By this ritual the ordaining bishop and the other priests invoke the Holy Spirit to come down upon the one to be ordained, giving him a sacred character and setting him apart for the designated ministry.
Why does the ordinand lie prostrate during the ordination?
It symbolizes his unworthiness for the office to be assumed and his dependence upon God and the prayers of the Christian community.
What is the meaning of the newly ordained priest receiving the stole and the chasuble?
These are vestments which pertain to his office and have symbolic meaning. The stole symbolizes the authority and responsibility to serve in imitation of Christ. It reflects the line from Scripture: “For my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt 11:30). The chasuble is the principal garment of the priest celebrating the Eucharist and is the outermost vestment.
What does the anointing of the hands signify?
Anointing with oil stems from the Old Testament and indicates that someone or something is being set apart for a sacred task or duty. The anointing of the hands signifies that the hands of the newly ordained priest are being prepared for the sacred duties and vessels which will be part of the priestly ministry, for example, offering the bread and the wine, anointing the sick and blessing people. The bishop says as he anoints the hands: “The Father anointed our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and to offer sacrifice to God.”
Why does the ordaining bishop hand the ordinand a chalice and paten?
The Eucharist is at the heart of the priesthood and this ritual highlights the importance of celebrating the Eucharist in the life of the priest and its meaning, as seen in the words which are spoken by the bishop: “Accept from the holy people of god the gifts to be offered to him. Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
Do priests take vows?
Priests who belong to a religious order (e.g., Benedictine, Dominicans, Franciscans, etc.) take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Diocesan priests make two promises, celibacy and obedience; these promises are part of the ordination ceremony. It is also expected that diocesan priests will lead a life of simplicity consonant with the people they serve.